Following various reports in the media, press statements and personal attacks on its President, the MHRA Council states that it is wrong and deceitful to try and use the Association or its President as a scapegoat for what is happening on the Island.
The Council of the MHRA, made up of 15 Members representing the Hotels and Restaurants, has discussed internally every lobbying decision taken which has been communicated by its President and MHRA Press Releases. As the spokesperson for the MHRA, Mr Tony Zahra has the unequivocal support of the whole Council of the Association. It would also be pertinent to point out that Tony Zahra has no direct investment in any Hotel or Restaurant and thereby derives no direct benefit from the Hotel and Catering industry and any comment made to the contrary is incorrect and serves only to damage the reputation of Mr. Zahra underhandedly.
The Tourism industry employs over 10,000 people directly and a further 10,000 indirectly. It is responsible for generating 2.1 billion Euro a year into the economy with a very large multiplier effect on the economy. When the MHRA fights for Tourism it is fighting to ensure that jobs within the industry are retained and to ensure that the economy continues to prosper to everyone’s benefit including all other businesses servicing Tourism.
The Council of the MHRA deplores the attacks being made on the Association as well as the personal attacks on its President and would like to make the following points to clarify the position of the Association:
1. The MHRA has always lobbied for the Tourism industry to be strengthened locally and will continue to do this for the benefit of the economy of the Island in the most holistic way possible.
2. The MHRA supported the Government in its decision to lock down the island and close the airport to all incoming travel when there was a great deal of uncertainty about the real danger of COVID-19 to people’s lives.
3. Once there was more clarity about the virus and it was deemed by the experts, amongst which were the World Health Organisation and the European Union, that it was safe to reopen the airport the MHRA lobbied for this to happen as fast as possible as this was the only way its members could commence operations and safeguards as many jobs as possible.
4. The MHRA has at all times advocated for the proper protocols to be used across the whole industry from arrivals at the airport to procedures in their members establishments.
5. At no point did the MHRA advocate for mass events to take place. The association categorically denies that it applied any sort of pressure at all to allow for mass events to take place.
6.The MHRA further notes that the various clusters on positive cases have in their majority resulted from local events and not from tourist related cases thereby clearly showing that the recent spike has not been caused by the opening of the airport or by the small number of tourists visiting the Island.
7.The MHRA is not the government. The MHRA is a lobby group that over the years has made numerous suggestions to the government of the time which contributed to the growth of the Tourism industry from which the whole Island has gained. The Association does not take governmental decisions, does not control legislation, and does not implement government policy. Executive decisions taken, over the many years since the inception of MHRA rest solely with the government of the day.
The MHRA further stated that COVID-19 spreads when social distancing protocols are not followed. It is blatantly clear when one moves around the Island and follows various posts by individuals on social media that many people locally continue to treat social distancing in a trivial manner. The MHRA made it clear that the only way the pandemic can be controlled is through everyone following social distancing protocols and was confident that if everyone acted responsibly then the spread of the virus will be brought under control while the economy can continue to function, albeit on a very low speed.
The MHRA concluded by thanking all front liners involved in combatting the virus, most especially the health workers who continue to do an amazing job very often with great personal sacrifice.
Signed by the entire council of the MHRA.
Mr Tony Zahra – President
Mr George Micallef – Senior Vice President Ms Angela Attard Fenech – Vice President Ms Claudienne Harb – Treasurer
Mr Kevin De Cesare – Council Member
Mr Adrian Attard- Council Member
Mr Simon De Cesare – Council Member
Mr Andy Tanti – Council Member
Ms Isabel Debattista – Council Member
Mr Vincent Degiorgio – Council Member Mr Richard Cleland – Council Member
Ms Isabel Debattista – Council Member Ms Rosie Grech – Council Member
Mr Norbert Grixti – Council Member
Mr Jankarl Farrugia – Council Member
Mr Andrew Agius Muscat – MHRA CEO